In the preview of this game, I asked for Liverpool to just look like they've taken a step forward from the first leg. They didn't have to completely flatten Gomel, but look more cohesive and threatening.
Well, they did flatten Gomel. They did dominate, they looked way more cohesive and threatening. In fact, they gave us three steps forward. Yes, it was only the not-best Belarussian side. Yes, it's only a Europa League qualifier. But it's the kind of match that sort of makes it hard to wait for the first Premier League fixture, which is now only eight days away. You can only play who's on the schedule, and Liverpool thoroughly rolled what was in front of them.
Of course, it's no coincidence that the threat and smothering returned with Agger, Lucas, and Suarez restored to the lineup. Agger allows Skrtel to settle. They can play higher. He keeps the ball coming calmly out of the back. Usually to Lucas, who keeps things ticking over with intelligent if not adventurous passing. The high pressing that Rodgers's wants is exactly Lucas's game, and gets them the ball back. And of course Suarez just tears defenses apart. It's really amazing how he can just roll right into the team with a new manager and a new system in just a week and look like the Midnight Bomber What Bombs At Midnight again.
To the bullets:
-Before the match, we wondered if Suarez started would he be on the flanks and Borini through the middle or vice versa. The answer turned out to be they would both be everywhere. You can see why Rodgers values mobility in his front line, because it always opens up a pass or occupies a defender, and Borini and Suarez executed it beautifully. In fact, with their roving and understanding, it looked like Liverpool were more in the 4-2-2-2 of last season than the 4-3-3 we expected. Downing wasn't as high up as the other two, and was joined by Gerrard, while Shelvey sat deeper with Lucas. If indeed that was the plan, it's reassuring to know that Liverpool don't always have to be in a 4-3-3.
-And finishing! Borini's and Johnson's efforts were unerring and exhibited more confidence and swagger than we saw any time last season after August. May it continue.
-I would have a hard time running through defenders the way Suarez does without a ball. How does he do it with one?
-After the first few minutes Downing seemed to slip out of the game. Doesn't really wane the desire to have Clint Dempsey in that spot.
-With the much higher pace, Shelvey also had a hard time keeping up. But that'll happen.
-After Euro 2012, you could forget how devastating Gerrard can be when pushed farther forward to get amongst the strikers. Maybe the purchase of Joe Allen, who is a mere medical away from being a Liverpool player, is designed to do just that. Allen is more a fit to team with Lucas behind Gerrard, and the captain seems at home using the space created by Suarez and Borini's movement. But Gerrard these days is a flexible type, and can do anything. Until something goes twang, at least.
All that stands between us and a new season now is a little over a week and a friendly against Bayer Leverkusen where the squad players will get one more run out. In fact, I enjoyed today's performance so much that I went out and got myself the new home strip. Still can't decide who to put on the back of it with Agger likely heading to City. But there'll be time enough to decide that.